Summer of Soul Review – Jordan Bishop

General Summary/Review

The recently released documentary of the six Sunday Harlem Cultural Musical Festival in 1969, The Summer of Soul, produced by Questlove, demonstrates the alluring progression of the musical and spiritual awakening within African-American culture. The film not only reflects the inspiration and true testimonies to the fantastic talent of African-American Singers and Musicians but also highlights the advancement of the Civil Rights Movement as a result of the systematic abuse and injustices inflicted upon the African-American community. This documentary broadens the narrative of African-American musical developments and capabilities, allowing its audience to witness the beautiful unification and enjoyment amongst a community during unprecedented times. 

My Personal Review and Notable Details

The documentary, Summer of Soul, brought about a feeling of amazement and surprise in my personal experience due to the extreme exposure of African-American cultural influence not only within Harlem but overall. I believe the film successfully demonstrated the expressive liberation of the 300,000 African-Americans that attended the Festival in 1969; this Musical Festival was not only an opportunity for performers, like 5th Dimension or Nina Simone, to perform hit singles or new songs, but was an opportunity for African-Americans to escape the hardship within the outside World. This Festival was strategically placed within a time that implemented the African-American community to express themselves in ways of enjoyment. Not only was the Musical Genres of Jazz, Blues, and Funk already a catalyst within this consensual freedom but this opportunity of escaping the difficulties of their reality was pleasurable. I believe the Festival had the amount of success that it did because it brought together a community that is repeatedly being criticized and shamed within pop culture. This Festival provided its attendees an opportunity to celebrate their “blackness” and its beautifulness. This film successfully adds to that incentive by emphasizing the cultural impact the Festival imposed during and after its creation.

  • The significant influence of Tony Lawerance and his contribution regarding the Festivals theatrics and organization.
  • 5th Dimensions difficulties with being labeled “White Singers” and their bravery to position themselves within the Musical Genre of Pop Music. 
  • Mahalia Jackson’s personal incite within the multigenerational transmission of social injustices and the difficulties of those who did and continue to face racial discrimination.
  • The recognition of previous Harlem Mayor John Lindsay and his positive contribution and regard for the Black community. 
  • It was so revolutionary back then to have a Mixed-Race Funky sound, and Sly and the Family Stone brought this to the forefront.
  • The fact that the Black Panthers were the Security for the event. 

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